Gut flora are the symbiotic or beneficial bacteria that live in our gut. Gut flora are often referred to as probiotics and you have a few trillion living in your gut right now. Because gut flora play such an important role in our overall health, some scholars liken our gut flora to a “forgotten organ.”
Here are 6 Amazing Things Gut Flora Does:
#1 Gut flora play a key role in nutrition by synthesizing B vitamins and vitamin K.
That’s right! These little guys actually help make some of the vitamins you need to fuel your cells and support your energy.
#2 Gut flora produce enzymes that help us absorb minerals like calcium, magnesium, and iron.
If you or your child is anemic, adding probiotics along with iron supplements can be extremely helpful.
#3 Gut flora make up the “ecological barrier” and protect the integrity of your gut.
Probiotics adhere to the gut, forming an additional protective layer to keep out toxins and other pathogens. Gut flora is paramount in keeping our guts properly sealed so that larger particles of food, toxins, and pathogens don’t get into the bloodstream where they would interact with our immune cells.
#4 Gut Flora break down food that our body can’t digest and turns it into fuel for gut epithelial cells.
In fact, your gut flora thrive on a high fiber diet. The standard American diet contains only 10% of the fiber necessary to nourish our gut flora and we can actually starve them into extinction. That’s why it’s so important to eat lots of fiber every day! Eating fruits and vegetables feeds your gut flora so they help you stay healthy!
#5 Gut flora is essential for a healthy immune function.
Gut flora help train the local immune system in the gut to attack pathogens but avoid attacking the body or beneficial bacteria. If this process is disrupted it may trigger inflammatory and autoimmune disorders such as celiac disease or Crohn’s disease. In fact, depending which source you reference, between 70-90 percent of the immune system is in the gut and comes from what’s called Gut Associated Lymphoid Tissue or GALT.
#6 Gut flora have an important role in healthy brain function and mood regulation.
Gut bacteria are critical for helping our bodies make important brain chemicals, or neurotransmitters, like dopamine, serotonin, and GABA. For example, they help us convert the amino acid glutamate into GABA, which is an important mood stabilizer that has a relaxing effect on the brain.
Approximately 90 percent of all serotonin is made in the gut and serotonin is important for mood regulation, sleep, appetite, memory, and learning.
Animal studies have shown that changes in gut flora brought on by antibiotics or harmful bacteria can increase anxiety, irritable bowel disease (IBD), and changes in behavior. They may also be linked to other mood disorders, such as depression.
Many Contemporary Chronic Childhood Illnesses Are Due to Imbalances in Gut Flora
Our modern lifestyle has been particularly hard on the gut, which in Chinese Medicine is related to the Earth Element. Increasingly, babies and children have imbalances in their Earth Element leading to colic, acid reflux, and digestive issues. Which in turn effects our Metal Element, which is roughly equivalent to our immune system, causing frequent upper respiratory illnesses and ear infections during the first few years of life.
Earth imbalances are also related to many chronic inflammatory health problems, such as allergies, asthma, eczema, diabetes, celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, obesity, ADHD, and ASD. Increasingly, these problems develop as the result of an imbalance in the Earth Element. Some babies and children never get a chance to properly develop their Earth Element due to the circumstances of their birth and early feeding.